OR Tambo taxi violence costs ‘run into millions’

Damages to taxis and lost fare revenue is estimated to run into millions of rands since taxi violence erupted in the OR Tambo district a year ago.

NO TRAFFIC: The Circus Triangle Taxi Rank in Mthatha stands deserted after it and two others – Ntlaza and Ngqeleni – were shut down due to ongoing taxi violence in the O R Tambo district Picture: LULAMILE FENI

Industry estimates place the amount lost at between R30-million and R50-million.

The feuding Uncedo Service Taxi Association (Usta) and Border Alliance Taxi Association (Bata) said 70 taxis had been burnt or stoned since March last year.

However, both associations said the amount paled in comparison to the cost of human lives.

Government and industry officials on Wednesday said 30 people including drivers and passengers and members of the public had been killed in the violence so far.

Further losses will be incurred after government closed taxi ranks and a major taxi route in the area for a period of six weeks.

Usta national leader Bishop Zola Yolelo and Bata president, Vuyani Mshiywa, said the violence had caused much pain and misery.

Both said it could have been prevented if their organisations were committed to peace and stability.

“Now we are calculating losses which run to more than R30-million,” said Yolelo.

“This excludes all the costs of 30 burials and the hospital bills of those injured and the income they were making for their families.”

Mshiywa said the violence and its effects were a disgrace to the industry.

Many of the taxis burnt and stoned were on the routes between Lusikisiki and Mthatha, Port St Johns and Mthatha, the N2 between Mthatha and Qumbu and also the T30 road to Ngqeleni.

Premier Phumulo Masualle has condemned the violence and called for a stop to hostilities.

The taxi associations agreed the violence had destabilised the industry.

“We are planning to visit all the families who lost their loved ones, irrespective of whether those who died are Usta or Bata members or even families of the victims, who are not even related to the industry and see how we can assist them and apologise,” said Yolelo.

The associations are meeting this weekend to plan the visits.

Both Usta and Bata welcomed the decision by transport and safety and liaison MEC Weziwe Tikana to close troubled taxi ranks and the R61 taxi route between Lusikisiki, Port St Johns and Mthatha for a period of six weeks.

More taxi ranks and routes could be closed and the period extended.

On Tuesday an armed 20-member gang stormed Ntlaza Taxi rank and indiscriminately shot, hacked and stabbed people. Two people were killed and eight others injured. The incident forced Tikana to act and close the routes and ranks. — lulamilef@dispatch.co.za